Little Red Stick

I’m on a five-week-long journey in the US to my Upper Creek homelands in Alabama and then onto the current seat of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee OK.

When l was a girl l carried charms and toys in my pockets. One of my favorites was a little carved wood Native American girl doll. A doll can provide divine discovery, guidance through the psyche and link us to our intuition as explained by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in Women Who Run with the Wolves.

Through my artmaking a character called Little Red Stick has come to me. She is a young Mvskoke hoktuce :: little girl who ran away from the Removals and went to live with the wolves. She travels with fusw poyvfekcv :: spirit bird who sees far and deeply into things.

I’ve made a Little Red Stick doll from a clothes peg and paint to accompany me on this important journey.

She faces the directions of South (yellow) and East (red) which is where the Mvskoke people originated when we emerged from the earth.

This journey has been many years in the making. I’m meeting a deep part of myself and rediscovering the divine.

A-C-E and 123

This is such a very big deal.
I’m studying and learning Beginning Mvskoke Language which is the first class of the online Mvskoke Language Certificate offered through the College of the Muscogee Nation.

I began learning Mvskoke during the start of the pandemic in May 2020 via a Facebook group Mvskoke Hoktvke Kerretv Yvcvkvt -Mvskoke Women who want to learn. The online classes began at 7:00pm CST. I used to set my alarm clock for 12:45am GMT to attend from Devon, UK. As life returned to semi-normal I was no longer able to get up in the middle of the night. Since Fall 2021, I’ve been joining virtual classes offered through the Mvskoke Language Program of The Muscogee Nation at a friendlier time of 12:00pm CST (6:00pm GMT). These have been great, but I crave the structure of a taught course, so the Mvskoke Language Certificate fits the bill perfectly.

I received a scholarship, an HP Probook, and a hardback edition of the eponymous Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee. This dictionary is the standard reference work for the Creek language. This dictionary has all of the words that my Mvskoke grandmother wasn’t allowed to speak and that my dad was made to feel too ashamed to speak.

My great grandmother and namesake Melinda Phillips never learned to speak English. So I feel that I am constructing a bridge between different generations of my family. Mvskoke is not an easy language to learn and I realize that I’m breaking a two-generation taboo in learning to speak it. I am finding the tongue that was torn out of the mouth of my grandmother and saying the words that my dad never could.

In addition to learning a new language, I am remembering how to be a student on my first academic course in about 30 years. When I used to take spelling tests in school, I’d draw little pictures of the words. I’m finding that this helps me to learn Mvskoke by eliminating the ‘middle man’ of the English word. It also helps that I’m an artist and a very visual person to embed these words in my brain.

The Mvskoke alphabet and pronunciation are different from the English alphabet, so I am beginning right at the basic building blocks of the language.

Nakcokv es keretv enhvteceskv (Muskokee, or Creek first reader) was first published in 1856.
Contributor Names: Robertson, W. S. (William Schenck), 1820-1881. Winslett, David, -1862, joint author.

There were over 500 different languages spoken by the 500+ Indigenous Nations of North America prior to colonization. So many people and their languages are no longer. It is our Native language that makes each Nation unique.
When the Mvskoke were removed from our Homelands in the 1830s, our language was just about the only thing we were able to bring with us. The Mvskoke language has survived the residential schools and the pressure to Anglicize ourselves to fit in with the dominant society. It is a privilege and a responsibility to learn and I am grateful for this opportunity.

Este Mvskokvlke Owis :: I am Mvskoke

When I was a Boy

I did my first ever darn recently on a cashmere jumper that I inherited from Steve after I (oops!) accidentally shrunk it in the wash. It’s a little bit tatty, so I use it for ‘second best’, eg reading in bed or while sitting at my laptop. I obviously lean on my left elbow a lot and noticed a gaping hole several months ago, but had to work up the nerve to give darning a try.

I was originally going to use charcoal grey wool to blend in. However, we had a mishap in the car and cracked one of the wing mirrors. The person we were visiting taped it up with hot pink duct tape. While waiting for a replacement mirror housing to arrive, I became smitten with the hot pink/charcoal grey color combo and ordered some Laine St Pierre darning wool #538.

The darn was fun to do and turned out pretty good I think.

Darn good darn

I did my usual consulting of a couple of ‘ how to’ books and I was also inspired by Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles by Leanne Prain. This time of year I always think about my mother Nell who died in January 1980.

Nell Rose Martin, age 8 in 1932

As I mended the elbow, I remembered a story that she told me when I was a little girl.

‘When she was small she was told that if she could
kiss her elbow she would turn into a boy’

My mom said she tried and tried to kiss her elbow because she wanted to be a boy so bad. Perhaps today she would have been given ‘gender reassignment therapy’ or would have a choice of pronouns. But l think she was reacting against the very small box that girls and women were placed in in the 1920s and 30s when she was small. I am so grateful that I had free rein to be a tomboy when I was small and wasn’t in quite so small a box in the 1960s and 70s when I was a boy.

This is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singer songwriters. When I Was a Boy by Dar Williams.

Imbolc

For Imbolc.

Candlelit snowdrops
Labyrinth drawn on a misty mirror

And ‘commitment’ my word for 2022 stitched as a sigil in my Little Book of Affirmations. The design incorporates the new moon. Powerful medicine on this new moon night.

Commitment

Disquietude

dis-

word-forming element of Latin origin meaning 1. “lack of, not” (as in dishonest); 2. “opposite of, do the opposite of” (as in disallow); 3. “apart, away” (as in discard), from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- “apart, asunder, in a different direction, between,” figuratively “not, un-,” also “exceedingly, utterly.”

quietude (n.)

“rest, repose, quiet, tranquility,” 1590s, from French quiétude (c. 1500) or directly from Late Latin quietudo, from Latin quietus “free; calm, resting” (from PIE root *kweie- “to rest, be quiet”).

Normally at this time, I choose a word for the coming year. However, a word for 2021 chose me a couple of days ago on my daily walk through the churchyard in the town where I live. I came across a flowering primrose.

Beautiful and one of my favorite flowers, but it should not be in bloom at the end of the year. This has been the warmest December on record and not only are many flowers blooming unseasonably but some animals are coming out of hibernation early.

This flower sums up and represents so much that has been making me feel disquieted – the Climate Crisis, Brexit, the increasingly corrupt and inhumane Tory government that currently has the UK gripped in its iron fist, the rise of populism and fascism in many countries across the globe, anti-vaxxers . . . . It’s hard for me to find my usually optimistic and hopeful outlook. This disquiets me almost as much as what is causing my disquiet.

I had a therapist a few years ago who gently reminded me to remember that I’m OK in this moment when I got anxious about things I have no control over or worried about the future/past. Good advice and it continues to help at times, but this feels different.

So rather than lifting my chin up and getting happy I’m letting myself be in this place of disquiet. Some feelings need to be felt, not ricocheted away from. I’m trusting that going through the disquiet will bring me to a different place.

And I will be back in a few days with my word for 2022.

A new beginning

I woke on November 1st to a beautiful dawn.

This is the first day of the new year according to the Celts. I felt cleaved in two and on the cusp of new beginnings.

I reread my journal from the past six months. Quandaries, musings, new directions . . .

This is a pivotal time. Time to be fleet of foot and to pivot away from what no longer serves me and towards my deepest desires and longings.

I took a deep breath. I remembered what Inspiraculum is all about: a place to breathe, dream, explore, be inspired, find yourself.

I booked 6 months of workshop space from January to June. This will be held creative space for people to come and find just that.